How to rebrand Christianity in a Crisis. I believe that Christianity is in the midst of an identity crisis and needs to redefine its brand to a post-modern-Christian world. Why is it essential for the Church to rebrand Christianity now? Whose responsibility is it to rebrand Christianity in a crisis? What practical steps can we take to rebrand Christianity today?
Why is it essential for the Church to rebrand Christianity now
The Church has an image problem. There is a disconnect between how the Church views itself and how the outside world perceives the Church. Let me illustrate.
How the Church and Christians view themselves. We view ourselves as individuals gathered in small groups to do good because of what Christ has done for us. We view ourselves as loving and gracious people.
How others view the Church and Christians. The world sees us as one massive monstrosity seeking to remake the world in its image.
Bigoted, hateful, self-righteous, smug, arrogant, hypocritical, dangerous, and delusionary are just some of the disparaging terms used to describe the Church.
The sad truth is that sometimes these descriptions are accurate.
The Church needs to lovingly demonstrate who we are, what we stand for, and why Christianity matters to this generation.
Whose responsibility is it to rebrand Christianity in a crisis?
We know someone should speak up and clarify what it means to follow Christ. But who will it be?
Some individuals are waiting for those outside the Church to seek out the truth about Christianity for themselves. Most unchurched individuals do not show up at the library and ask, “Can you show me all the books about knowing God?” There are some exceptions, but the vast majority of people form their opinion about Christianity and the Church from the news, social media sources, and interactions with individuals.
Some are hopeful that their local pastor or denominational leader will speak up as a reasonable and loving voice to redefine Christianity. Many pastors are speaking up, but they rarely have the opportunity to talk directly with someone who is not attending their church.
But the one voice that carries the most weight, that people are willing to listen to and discuss what Christianity is about, is the most reluctant to speak up.
That person is you.
I know you feel unqualified and inadequate for the task. That is part of the reason that you are the right choice. Humility is needed to discuss our faith.
God has clearly stated in His Word that as His followers, we are responsible for his brand. So, you and I must be ready to answer when people ask us to explain what Christianity means to us as an individual.
But the one voice that carries the most weight, that people are willing to listen to and discuss what Christianity is about, is the most reluctant to speak up. That person is you.
What practical steps can we take to rebrand Christianity today?
So, if we accept our responsibility as brand ambassadors for Christ, where do we begin? How do we proceed to redefine what Christianity means to others?
I believe that we can learn from the most significant response to a brand crisis in history.
Johnson & Johnson faced a crisis over their identity and branding when their product Tylenol was tampered with. In 1982 Seven people in Chicago died as a result of cyanide poisoning. The FBI determined that the bottles were tampered with after they left the plant. No one was ever tried or convicted of the crime.
Al Hilburg was responsible for Johnson & Johnson’s response to their brand crisis. His approach has become the textbook response to restoring a damaged reputation.
Here is my summary of the five key lessons that Hilburg learned from the experience.
- Values are important. They inform our responses. Johnson & Johnson’s core values were to serve their customers who were dependent on the medication and products they provided. They were concerned about their customers’ safety, and it impacted every decision they made in the crisis.
- Focus on continuing to serve others well, with a focus on the victims of the crisis. Johnson & Johnson notified the public about the problem and voluntarily recalled their product from the shelves.
- Assume responsibility for the solution, whether or not you are the source of the problem. Johnson & Johnson exchanged the capsules for caplets. They created the first-tamper-proof bottle that is still the industry standard.
- Act quickly, honestly, and decisively. Johnson & Johnson responded immediately to the crisis.
- Good behavior delivers great returns. Johnson & Johnson became a brand synonymous with trust and received a larger market share due to their actions.
What can we learn from their responses?
Our values are important. We need to understand our core values and then live into them, even when it is costly. Christianity’s core value is that all men and women are created in God’s image, are unconditionally loved by him, have infinite value to him, and are welcome to come and receive His gift of forgiveness and eternal life.
We need to continue to serve others well. But we need to ask them how we can best help them. We often assume we know what they need and are blind to opportunities that would make a lasting impact.
We need to proactively seek solutions to problems facing the people we want to serve, even those we did not cause. The only way to address those issues is by going to where they are and creating safe venues for them to speak. We may not be responsible for the harm caused by another church, but we can be responsible for the healing.
We need to take action today. We can begin to pursue loving, honest, and grace-filled relationships now. We can speak up when someone who claims to represent Christianity is out of line. It’s time to silence their voices. They do not speak for us. I know that this will be uncomfortable, but it is necessary.
We have allowed legalistic, racist, judgmental voices to go uncorrected when they have spoken as if they represented the Church. It needs to stop now.
Doing the right thing at the right time always pays off for all the right reasons. Our good behaviors, loving others without an agenda, and working for our community’s common good, will bring forth fruit in its season. Loving God will cause us to seek relationships and partnerships that may be uncomfortable.
Call to Action
Can you find an opportunity to love someone unconditionally? To speak up when someone is out of line and is using hateful speech? Will you be a brand ambassador for Christ?